Friday, June 1, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are

The treatment facility where I work has two campuses-- one for boys and one for girls. I divide my time between both. The campus for girls is located in the middle of a state park that is home to one of the world's largest buffalo herds. The campus is pretty big with two dormitories that house 24 girls each, two classroom buildings, a pond, and a chapel that hosts events and church services. Yesterday, as I was walking a couple of girls from one building to the next, one of the girls said, "Whoa!" I looked over to see three large buffalo bulls grazing just across the fence. It made me start to think of all of the other encounters my coworkers have had with the animals lately.

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One of the night staff was leaving around 10:00 or 10:30 one night and noticed two eyes near her car. It turned was a mountain lion. Needless to say, she didn't go much further. A few weeks later, a mountain was seen drinking from our pond in the morning (which is weird because they're usually nocturnal).

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Marmots have been known to eat the wiring out of peoples' cars while they're at work. One of my  coworkers got home one night, and when she tried to leave to run some errands after work, her car wouldn't start. She and her husband lifted the hood to see what was wrong, and out popped a battered marmot. When I told Craig, who works in the same state park, this story, he said, "I guess we just live in harmony with our marmots."

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A few weeks ago, I heard somebody say over the radio, "Umm, there's a large bull snake near the gas pumps." Of course, all of my students rushed to the window to try to see the snake. When they couldn't see it, they all asked if we could walk across the parking lot to take a look. When I said "no," I told them it was because we had a lot of work to get done, but really it was because I didn't want to have nightmares for the rest of the week.

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Speaking of snakes, a coworker told me that this weekend, as they were loading the girls up in suburbans, they had a too close encounter with a baby rattle snake. For those of you who don't know, baby rattle snakes don't know how to control their venom, so they release more than an adult would. That's a fact I learned from a coworker who got bitten on a golf course in a nearby town. Fortunately, on this occasion, they were able to avoid a bite.

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As I was looking through the pictures on my computer hard drive searching for pictures of buffalo, I realized I don't have any, mostly because I don't want this to happen. You wouldn't believe how many people I see trying to take pictures outside of their cars. Umm, it's a state park, not a petting zoo. They're wild animals, and they kind of scare me. 

Also, in regards to the mountain lions, they recently found a lion kill less than a block from our house. I don't care if they say the lions are skittish around people, I no longer take my garbage out at night. I'm not taking any chances.

P.S. If you've ever considered visiting Custer State Park, don't let this deter you.  I count myself lucky to live and work in such a beautiful location. I just think it's important to be cautious.

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